School
Publishing Date: 2/20/2014
Author: Amy McNulty

                   



 

It was a frigid February day with overcast skies

When Dad asked us to sit and cleared his throat to say,

“Kids, I know this news will come as a surprise,

But I’ve discussed it with your mother and we’re moving away.”

 

My chest started hurting, I shook with a jolt.

My brain couldn’t comprehend what it’d heard him speak.

I gripped the edge of the couch and fought the urge to bolt.

I bit my tongue so I wouldn’t let out a shriek.

 

My little brother, he wasn’t so careful not to offend.

“What do you mean we have to move?

Surely not before it’s time for the school year to end!”

He shouted at Mom and Dad -  they clearly disapproved.

 

“I’m sorry, Scott,” said Mom, “but Dad’s got a new job.

My boss said I could transfer—and get a promotion, too.”

Scott kicked at the coffee table and choked down a sob.

I knew he’d miss his friends -  they were attached like glue.

 

But what did Scott think would happen to me?

He made friends the instant he met someone new.

When it came to friends, I had exactly three.

But they were my best friends, my soul mate crew.

 

Leaving behind Ashley, Tim and Gina was hard.

It happened too soon—in March we said goodbye.

Sure, there was the Internet or the birthday card.

But a phone call, a Tweet—it wasn’t Glenbrook High.

 

No, no more Glenbrook, I started at a new school.

To make it worse, there were only three months to go.

My face flushed, my palms sweated, I felt like a fool

When my first period teacher introduced me and sat me in the front row.

 

When you transfer to a new school at the beginning of the year,

Everyone’s excited to make a new friend.

When you wind up transferring with only one semester clear,

You might sneak in unnoticed amidst the holidays’ end.

 

But transferring in the middle of spring

Makes you stand out like a neon-colored light.

Everyone already has friends, they do their own thing.

Who needs a new pal, someone who might be full of spite?

 

But what if the other students all thought I was mean?

That I transferred because I had done something truly obscene?

 

Maybe my parents had to relocate because they couldn’t take the shame

Of all the crimes associated with my infamous name.

 

I can’t say for sure that’s what the other kids thought.

I just sat down and tried to stay quiet and concealed.

I hid in the courtyard during breaks and ate the lunch I brought.

An old oak tree acted as my fellow student shield.

 

I was right about my brother, he fit in just fine.

He had tons of new friends and a little sweetheart as well.

He no longer was mad, he didn’t so much as whine.

I guess a new school brought him even more out of his shell.

 

But he was in 5th grade, I was in 11th grade now.

It was far too late for me to reinvent my entire life.

I started heading to school furrowing my brow,

Thinking of how I’d get through this unspeakable strife.

 

“A whole year and three months more of school before I’m done,”

I’d tell myself each time I walked through the halls.

“I may as well give up and run away to become a nun.”

Okay, that was just crazy talk, but I felt like a prisoner in school walls.

 

I spent my school days as quiet as a mouse.

Because each time I had a class partner, I said something dumb.

I spent every free minute wishing I was back at my house.

That I could stop feeling like an outcast who was entirely numb.

 

But my evenings at home, they were not much better.

My friends were never online and I always got their voice mail.

I was almost tempted to send an old-fashioned letter.

At least then I’d know if they’d all been whisked off to jail.

 

I got tired of looking online and giggling at pictures of cats.

Sure, they had cute taglines and made funny memes.

But I felt empty inside, like I was wearing the wrong hats.

I felt like I was practically bursting at the seams.

 

Bored one day, I logged on and checked Facebook to see

That Tim and Gina had posted photos of them with Julie!

 

I know that Ashley worked a lot, but was two too few?

Did they have to replace me and her with someone new?

 

I wiped a few tears away and dialed my one true friend.

Ashley, who was probably at work, didn’t pick up at first.

I left a rambling message—okay, I was crying at the end.

I shed so many tears I felt like I would soon be dying of thirst.

 

What felt like days later but surely was only an hour,

My phone rang; I checked it and answered the call.

“Jane, what’s wrong? I just got out of the shower.

I heard your message and thought I’d check in before I head to the mall.”

 

I practically burst into tears, but I held my tongue.

Was I nothing to Ashley, too, if she could only just squeeze me in?

Oh, the pains of being alone when you’re so young.

When we were little, I was practically Ashley’s twin.

 

But now we were separated and with distance I’m forgotten.

Would Ashley replace me too, with Monica or Beth?

But I didn’t want to be the one who seemed rotten,

So I calmed my nerves and took a deep breath.

 

I told her about the picture of Julie, how I never heard back.

How it seemed like my three best friends were out of my reach.

I told her about how alone I felt, how I didn’t have the knack

For making new friends with my dopey speech.

 

Ashley listened in silence the first minute or two

Then she told me I was silly, but she understood why

I’d feel so alone with friends so few,

But that I needed to dry my tears and vow not to cry.

 

“Do you remember in 8th grade when Don moved to town?”

As soon as she mentioned him, I suddenly understood.

Don was a transfer student—and he was a clown.

And at first no one befriended him like we knew we all should.

 

It was a bit awkward at first, but Don won us over fast.

He smiled a lot and he told funny jokes.

He didn’t wait for us to come to him, he didn’t wait to be asked.

And soon he was everyone’s friend, just one of the folks.

 

And as far as Tim and Gina went, Ashley knew they still cared.

They were all just so busy and besides, was I that jealous

That I wouldn’t want them to ever be paired

With anyone but me—even though they were so zealous?

 

I thanked Ashley for setting me straight.

Maybe the guys and girls at school would like me

Or perhaps I was right and they weren’t so great,

But you know, if I didn’t try, I would never truly see.

 

I took it slowly and told myself it was okay

If things on my first day trying didn’t suddenly go my way.

 

I’d be friendly, I’d be patient, I’d stop making a big deal

Of every single interaction I had; I’d learn to appeal.

 

I started with that girl with whom I partnered for bio lab.

She seemed nice enough, if you looked at the way

She didn’t ridicule how I stumbled over my every scalpel stab.

And what was the worst that could happen by the end of the day?

 

We started the experiment, we were dissecting a worm

When for the first time, I saw the patch on her backpack.

“I love those books!” I cooed as I held the creature firm

The squirmy, gross thing now stuck into the tray with a tack.

 

My partner jumped a little, perhaps surprised to hear me speak.

But then she smiled and handed me the clipboard.

“I’m surprised you recognized it—I didn’t think you were a geek.”

For a moment, I felt ill, I was practically floored.

 

“Uh, well…” I stammered, in my usual brilliance.

“Relax,” she responded, “all my friends love it, too, you know.”

I felt her smile melt my usual resilience.

It was time to let my guard down and go with the flow.

 

My partner—her name was Jodi, by the way—

Asked me to meet up with her in the cafeteria after.

It was the first time I’d eaten a cafeteria meal on a tray.

The food was so-so, but I really loved the laughter.

 

I made new friends; I finally felt free.

All it took was a smile and an invitation to talk to me.

 

Now I look forward to each day we meet.

I’ve added new branches to my friendship tree.

Leaving my life behind meant dancing to a new beat.

But wherever I go, I’m still me.

 



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